Since the Industrial Revolution (at least) the way business has thought about products and services tended to be 1-way – dig materials up, make a product, sell it to someone, forget about it – and repeat….
However, that’s not going to “cut the mustard” for much longer – unless you’re making a product that’s totally compostable.
- Many of the wastes produced today are complex chemical compounds that are super-difficult to reprocess – because they were never DESIGNED for recovery and remanufacturing.
- Waste costs have historically been paid either by governments (who manage landfills) or communities and ecosystems (which become unpaid waste dumps).
- Extended producer liability legislation is growing around the world. It’s not just being applied to consumer electronics, either. So the company making a material is going to increasingly be asked to pay the cost of its disposal.
- The costs of disposing of waste are growing – whether it’s the skip outside your factory or the green waste bin outside your home. They will continue to grow – increasing the need to innovate to avoid costs.
Smarter business strategy
In a forest there is no waste – there are only endlessly circulating nutrients. Tree branches fall, animals die and their remains rot. Microbes and fungi are just some of the natural processes that turn waste into nutrients.
So smart businesses are increasingly adopting the mantra:
There is no waste – only byproducts with value potential
Everything you don’t sell to a customer is a BYPRODUCT. It should be either:
A biological nutrient – which can be safely composted in a home composting facility
A technical nutrient that can be upcycled into a valuable, useful product or material.
And if it’s not either – if it’s a chemical hybrid or “unusable” – then what you have is an innovation opportunity.
So the supply chain stops being a 1-way mine/make/use/dump chain (it never really has been) and become a network – circulating technical nutrients while retaining their value.
The new “efficiency” is in a Circular Economy that:
- Eliminates waste and pollution – by design
- Circulates products and materials – continuously
- Regenerates the ecosystems it cannot exist without
Source: Ellen Macarthur Foundation
Close the Loop, build a business
Australian business Close the Loop® is a fascinating case study. It was founded in 2001, and has since grown to operate across Australia, New Zealand, the US and Europe.
The idea for Close the Loop® grew out of an existing imaging supplies distribution company and their need to respond to competitive market pressures.
Under price pressure from large multinationals and cartridge refillers, founder Steve Morriss developed a unique selling proposition – to take back and recycle everything he supplied at the end of its life. His customers and suppliers bought it and Close the Loop® was born.
(Their public face in Australia is the Planet Ark collection bins you see in office supply shops.)
Today Close the Loop® is an innovative materials recovery company, specialising in the collection and recycling of toner and inkjet cartridges, toner bottles as well as other print consumables. They have developed and commercialised processes to turn old printer cartridges into a range of products – from pens to asphalt.
Their NFP partner Planet Ark is now championing Circular Economy innovation across Australia, across a broad range of opportunities – from coffee grounds to consumer electronics.
Thinking circular is more than new technology
“The Circular Economy is NOT just about new businesses, new infrastructure, or new capital equipment. The Circular Economy IS all about new thinking, utilising existing assets and collaboration.” – Steve Morriss, founder of Close the Loop®
What made Close The Loop work was building relationships and designing a smarter supply chain – one that added value to the printing consumables industry and the community.
Creating agreements and business processes to deliver a more circular supply chain was every bit as important as bringing together the technical solutions.
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